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Tuesday, 26 July 1921

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Repatriation) . - Many of the matters which the Board will be called upon to decide will be of a minor character, having to do, for example, with calculations over unimportant articles of import, which are now dealt with by the Minister alone. It would be absurd to require such trivialities to be re-investigated if there should be lack of unanimity between the two members of the Board who chanced, to be present at a meeting.

Senator Earle - Would, it not be absurd that -any member of the Board should see fit to debate such things ?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have known honorable senators -to display stubbornness of mind' and force of extended argument over very little matters - subjects which persons -outside this Parliament would not . deem worth . five minutes' talk. -Suppose that two members of the

Board were to proceed to a distant State, the third being unable to go; or suppose that, among the three, it was decided that only two need go. If the proposal now before this Committee were adopted, it would mean, that the two travelling members could not deal with any subject effectively; or, that if they did bring it to an effective head, and the member who had " remained behind disagreed with their finding, the whole business would have to be hung up while all three went off to make a fresh investigation.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why appoint a member of the Board if he will not do his job? He gets his £5 5s. per sitting.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Assurance of payment is no guarantee of a job being done.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Will not the fact of the appointment be a guarantee of the job being done?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes, so far as the Government can conceivably provide. Naturally, no man would be appointed who could not give satisfactory proof of his ability and assurance respecting his intention faithfully to perform his duties. The Board will be only advisory. A recommendation by the Board, whether unanimous' or reached upon the casting vote of the chairman, will not of itself do anything. Moreover, I take it that the Minister, upon receipt of a report, would require to be informed whether the recommendation submitted by the Board carried the indorsement of the whole of its members. If he were informed that a decision had been arrived at upon the casting vote of the chairman in the absence of the third member, and if he considered the' matter of great importance, he would surely require that it should be dealt with by the full Board.

Senator Earle - Very often the Minister would not be advised of the fact that a third member had been absent, or that the remaining member had resisted the recommendation and had been overborne by the casting vote of the chairman.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think that the Minister, for his own satisfaction and security, would require to be told whether important recommendations had been unanimously indorsed, or agreed to only upon the casting vote of the chairman. Having, perhaps, more faith than some honorable senators in the common sense of Ministers, I ask the Committee to agree to the clause as it stands.

Amendment negatived.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 13 and 14 agreed to.

Clause 15 -

(1)   The Minister shall refer to the Board for inquiry and report the following matters : -

(a)   the classification of goods under all Tariff items which provide for classification under . by-laws;

(b)   the determination of the value of goods for duty under section 160 of the Customs Act 1901-1920;

(c)   any dispute arising out of the interpretation of any Customs Tariff or Excise Tariff, or the classification of articles in any Tariff, in which an appeal is made to the Minister from the decision of the ComptrollerGeneral ;

(d)   the necessity for new, increased, or reduced duties, and the deferment of existing or proposed deferred duties;

(e)   the necessity for granting bounties for the encouragement of any primary or secondary industry in Australia;

(f)   the effect of existing bounties or of bounties subsequently granted;

(g)   any proposal for the application of the British Preferential Tariff or the Intermediate Tariff to any part of the British Dominions or any foreign country, together with any requests received from Australian producers or exporters in relation to the export of their goods to any such part or country;

(h)   any complaint that a manufacturer is taking undue advantage of the protection afforded him by the Tariff, and in particular in regard to his -

(i)   charging unnecessarily high prices for his goods; or

(ii)   acting in restraint of trade to the detriment of the public; or

(iii)   acting in a manner which results in unnecessarily high prices being charged to the consumer for his goods; or

(iv)   refusing to sell to any person goods to the value of £50 at current market rates, and shall not take any action in respect of any of those matters until he has received the report of the Board.

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